Full circle

February 15, 2011

My butt is cold.

That’s probably not the classiest way to start a blog entry, but it’s what I’m thinking as I sit on this ancient metal lawn chair in front of the motel I bought exactly a year ago, watching the tumbleweeds struggle to free themselves from the barbed-wire fence across the highway and waiting in the brittle night air to see whether the coyotes will serenade me again like they did last night.

Like the tumbleweeds and their namesake motel, I am a latecomer to this ancient land.

Uprooted and directionless, I blew in from the east and found myself caught on the fence of a life unlike anything I’d ever known.

A year later, I remain unsure of why I thought this was a good idea, but I am certain it was the best idea I’ve ever had.

At 11:38 a.m., Feb. 15, 2010, I became the proud owner of the historic Tumbleweed Motel, which now consists of five lovingly restored rooms, an office, a functional wringer washer, a pair of clothesline poles that I still haven’t gotten around to sanding and spraying with Rust-Oleum, a developmentally disabled handyman who calls me “Sissy” and walks two miles to the truck stop next to the interstate off-ramp every morning to buy canned tuna for the feral cats that skulk around the edges of the property, an espresso machine, a collie mix rescued from a barbed-wire fence, four cats rescued from a culvert during a rainstorm, a dark-eyed man with a wry sense of humor who became my boyfriend in April and my husband in October, a feisty teenage desk clerk whose rightful title probably ought to be “assistant manager,” and a three-month-old fetus who waits silently for the right moment to make a grand entrance into a world full of everyday adventure and fiery sunsets that never fail to take my breath away.

I tumbled into town with a splitting headache and a heart full of grief, orphaned, jobless, uncertain of my future, with nothing to lean on but a small insurance settlement and the publishing rights to my father’s music.

A year later, sitting here on my own property next to Route 66, with my freezing butt and my freezing fingers and a faster Internet connection than I had a year ago, waiting for a visit from unseen coyotes, I feel my shallow chaparral roots beginning to deepen, having probed this dry land and found enough love and beauty to heal a broken heart and support a life whose quietude somehow manages to dazzle me more than the glitter and flash of the city I left behind.

My butt is cold. My life is beautiful. And with that note to open their song, the coyotes are just beginning a lullaby wild and familiar.

– Sierra

Almost spring!

February 13, 2011

Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Monday. Meanwhile, Ryno should be arriving in Clearwater any day now, if he hasn’t already. I’m not sure about the reporting date for the Ironpigs, but the Phillies pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, so the minor-league affiliates should be along directly.

I need to get off my butt and figure out the Isotopes’ schedule so we can plan some trips to Albuquerque this summer.

On a related note, Grant couldn’t find anybody to coach baseball this spring, so he’s doing it himself. Meanwhile, Lil Miss informed me that the softball coach is a 22-year-old first-year art teacher who played one season of coach-pitch softball when she was in second grade and only agreed to take over the team because she is inexplicably terrified of Grant and will basically do anything he asks, whether she has any business doing it or not. Coaching softball, Lil Miss assures me, falls into the category of Things She Doesn’t Have Any Business Doing, as she knows almost nothing about the game, so I tagged along with Lil Miss to practice this morning (the past two days, incidentally, have been much warmer than the last couple of weeks have been) and offered my services as third-base coach.

I am pleased to report that Coldwater High School’s head softball coach now knows how to keep score, fill out a lineup card, and give signs to the pitcher. She still plays ball like a girl, but given sufficient practice, I think Lil Miss and I can cure her of that.

Wisely, I think, I elected not to tell Grant about my latest volunteer project until after I’d cleared it with Dr. Scherer.

Grant, predictably, was apoplectic. He is under the impression that “pregnant” is a synonym for “invalid.” I explained to him that when I played summer ball in junior high, my coach — who had been the star pitcher on her college team — threw BP for us in the middle of June, while she was eight months pregnant. Her daughter was born perfectly healthy, after less than three hours of labor, and grew up to lead her high-school softball team to the state championship four years in a row, with the lowest ERA in school history.

Grant remains unconvinced.

I remain unconcerned.

The girls’ home opener is March 14, if anybody’s interested.

– Sierra

State of emergency

February 1, 2011

Five. It is literally five degrees outside. The state came by and plowed 66 this morning, and Grant took the laundry up to the laundromat in the truck stop to wash and dry because it’s obviously too cold to line dry anything, and we’ve got a lobby full of people.

Joey cleared and salted the paths from the rooms to the lobby, and Lil Miss appointed herself activities coordinator for the children stuck here as a result of the weather. Just about every flight in the country has been grounded, and the roads are still too dicey for most people to attempt — especially with blowing snow and the threat of highway closures farther west — so we are obviously packed.

I could do without the cold and the hassles, but I’m enjoying the little kids’ artwork that now graces my lobby. Lil Miss has kept the kids busy all afternoon with fingerpainting, tissue-paper suncatchers, Shrinky Dinks, and I don’t know what all else. She assures me that the glitter and scraps of paper will be removed from the lobby before she leaves.

Meanwhile, Grant won’t let me outside, lest I slip and fall on the ice, so I’ve spent most of the day in the kitchen, making the usual short-order breakfast, then a kid-friendly lunch of mac and cheese, PBJs, and carrot and celery sticks. A very sweet, very funny gay couple from Missouri took over cleanup duties when I started to run out of steam after lunch. Mike was raised by his Italian grandmother on The Hill in St. Louis and owns his own catering business, so he and Bill promptly commandeered the kitchen and announced that I would be taking the rest of the day off while they whipped up dinner for everybody. I’m not sure what we’re having, but it smells heavenly.

This place never ceases to amaze me. No matter who’s here or what the situation is, we always seem to end up with the perfect combination of talents, personalities, and ideas to keep things running smoothly. I am beginning to suspect that the Tumbleweed is some sort of odd wormhole through which blessings enter the universe. It’s certainly worked that way for me.

– Sierra

Grrr.

December 30, 2010

Stupid WordPress app ate my last post. I love this blog service, but the iPad app is still Not Yet Ready for Primetime.

A quick update:

Sandy is moving to Coldwater. She’s semiretired anyway, and she says the birth of her first grandchild is as good an excuse as any to go into full-on retirement mode. Except she won’t really be retired, because she is planning to open a bookstore/coffeehouse in Coldwater. I suspect I’ll be pulling barista duty before she’s through.

Sandy has also befriended Abuelito. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.

I think I’m jealous of the baby. I had an interesting childhood, but I’m thinking about Coldwater through a child’s eyes, and I can’t imagine a more fascinating place to grow up. I hope Rugrat sees it that way.

– Sierra

Explanation

December 22, 2010

No, I’m not dead. Yes, I have an excuse for my lengthy silence.

“Let me ‘splain. No — there is too much. Let me sum up.”
Inigo Montoya

Here are all the things I’ve done in the past week:

1. Made approximately seventy million cookies in forty-two different flavors. (You have no idea how many cookie exchanges are held in Coldwater, N.M., during the month of December. It truly boggles the mind.)
2. Attended two school programs, a band concert, a chorus concert, a Chamber luncheon, a chili supper, and a church Christmas cantata.
3. Helped the Chamber director sort and wrap umpty-three gifts for kids on the Angel Tree we put up at Bill Swinney’s place.
4. Watched Sandy and Joey use poster board and tinted craft glue to make a suncatcher for Grant’s office window.
5. Discovered firsthand that morning sickness is a bitch.

Yeah, you read that last part right.

Thus far, we have not told Joey. He will, of course, be utterly thrilled, but I am not sure exactly what he does and does not know about how pregnancy works or where babies come from, and we are not telling him anything until Grant works up the nerve to explain it to him.

If anybody wants to start a betting pool on when this will happen, I’ll put five bucks on “baby’s 35th birthday.”

– Sierra

Back online

December 10, 2010

What is it with truckers and telephone poles? Last Saturday morning, a big rig hauling a wind turbine blade failed to swing wide enough while making a turn and took out the telephone pole on the corner — the same one Mouse hit last March. (Speaking of Mouse, he sent us a Christmas card this week. He said he’s planning to be back out this direction in a couple of weeks, and he’s looking forward to stopping and staying at the Tumbleweed on his way through.)

It only took a couple of days to fix the phone lines last spring. I don’t know what the holdup was this time around, but we haven’t had phone or Internet service all week. If it were tourist season, I’d probably be pretty hacked off about the delay, but I’m sure I haven’t lost too many December customers over it. I’ve just used the time to finish up the calendar for the Chamber, spend time with Joey, and digitally archive about 600 historic photos.

Joey and I started volunteering at the grade school this week. Joey is a library monitor, which basically means he hangs out with the librarian, helps sort books, and reads to little kids during story time. The kids love him because he’s a grownup who understands what it is to be a kid. I love watching him work with them, because he mimics everything I do when I read to him — including stopping every few minutes to ask the kids if they recognize a particular word. If they get it wrong, he says, “No, but that’s a good try. Look at it again,” just the way I do with him, and if they get it right, he puts down the book and gets everybody to clap and cheer.

The kids eat it up, and I think he’s really getting a lot out of being in the library so much. He’s learning how to use the resources to find information — if a kid comes in to ask for help finding books about a particular subject, Joey watches over the librarian’s shoulder and then tries to help the next kid himself — and he’s very curious about the kids’ class projects. He asks them a lot of questions about whatever they happen to be learning, which is great for him and probably even better for the kids, who are reinforcing their own lessons by teaching them.

Meanwhile, I have been grading a lot of papers, making a lot of photocopies, and filling out a lot of paperwork so I can get certification to cover classes when teachers are absent. The principal was pretty amped when I told him I’d be willing to serve as a volunteer sub. He said a lot of substitute teachers — even the ones who are paid to be there — have trouble following a lesson plan, so the kids don’t learn much when their regular teachers are gone. I guess Dr. Scherer and Grant have told him about my work with Joey, so he’s pretty confident that I’d make a good sub.

Every time I think my life can’t get any weirder, some new project presents itself. If you had told me 13 months ago that I would be married to a high-school principal, taking care of a developmentally disabled man nearly twice my age, running a motel, and substitute teaching in a tiny town in the middle of New Mexico, I’d have been convinced you were taking way too many hallucinogenic drugs … but here I am, and I love it.

– Sierra

Awesome idea

December 2, 2010

Joyce came by for coffee this morning. I hadn’t had a chance to talk to her since my wedding, but Grant has been telling Dr. Scherer all about Joey’s progress, so Joyce came by to see for herself.

As we sipped cappuccino and discussed the risk of ennui in Coldwater during the winter, she offered a terrific idea to keep Joey and me from getting bored while we wait for tourist season to return: Volunteer to help out at the grade school.

She said Coldwater Elementary is always in need of volunteers to help with stuff like making copies, reading to little kids, and helping teachers prepare materials for bulletin boards. There are a few parent volunteers, but most of the kids’ parents are working two or three jobs just to keep food on the table, so their ranks are fairly limited. Joey and I don’t have anything else to do with our mornings during the winter, and Joey is great with little kids, so I think we’ll head that direction Monday morning and offer our services as volunteers.

I am really amped about this idea. I think it will be really good for Joey, and it will keep me busy.

– Sierra

Wedding update

October 28, 2010

Grant is asleep, Joey is watching TV in his room, and I am wrapped up in a falsa blanket, blogging from a metal lawn chair under a clear New Mexico sky, watching the steam curl from my cocoa mug and drift off into the cold night air, and thinking that this quiet evening is probably the best chance I’ll have to post a full account of the wedding.

The ceremony itself was simple but pretty. Brother Jerry and a couple of deacons from church set up a little metal archway at the park, and Sandy decorated it with solar-powered Christmas lights, faux-fall-leaf garlands, and a couple of small chile ristras. Lil Miss presented me with a bouquet of sunflowers and daisies that she and Joey had arranged, and we set up a portable sound system and played a couple of Dad’s songs during the ceremony, which made me cry.

The most memorable part of the whole wedding — at least for me — was the gift Grant presented to me immediately after the ceremony.

Hank Freed came over one night last week, while Lil Miss was working, and offered to donate a junk car to the FFA for a fundraiser. He talked Bill Swinney out of some spray paint and a sledgehammer, towed the car to the festival site, and let the FFA kids charge people $5 to spraypaint an enemy’s name on the car and then hit it as hard as they could with the sledgehammer.

As soon as the ceremony was over, Grant took me over to the car, painted Jim Hendry’s name all over it, handed Lil Miss a crisp $100 bill, and told me to have fun avenging Ryno.

I’m no Willie Stargell, but I think I did a pretty respectable job with that sledgehammer. :)

Remarkably, I still had enough energy left to change a tire on the Volvo after Grant ran over part of a broken bottle on the way up to Santa Fe — the only glitch in an otherwise lovely weekend.

We stayed at the beautiful El Rey Inn. I’d had some good intentions about leaving work at work, but El Rey’s owners have given the property so many cute little flourishes that I couldn’t resist photographing some of the details and writing down a few ideas to bring back to Coldwater. We spent part of Sunday afternoon hiking La Bajada Hill and then spent Sunday night in Santa Fe before heading home on Monday.

We came home to find a check in the mailbox from that consignment lot in Flagstaff where Grant put the Firebird up for sale. After five months, it finally sold. We’re thinking about using the money to get the neon sign out front relit.

– Sierra

Relief.

October 23, 2010

I was expecting something a little more dramatic right about now, but the primary emotion flooding my mind at this moment — three hours after Brother Jerry pronounced us man and wife, and fifteen minutes after I broke out a four-way lug wrench and wowed Grant with my best impression of a NASCAR pit crew after he ran over a broken beer bottle in the middle of the interstate somewhere between Dilia and Starvation Peak — is relief.

Flat tire notwithstanding, the day went very smoothly, and if the rest of the evening goes according to plan, I’m less than an hour and a half away from a long, hot shower, a cold bottle of champagne, and a much-anticipated evening at the beautiful El Rey Inn in Santa Fe.

In case you are wondering, I will be out of pocket for the next few days….

– Sierra

Catching my breath

October 21, 2010

Last-minute chili entries have been processed. Lil Miss reports that the FFA activities are all lined up and seem to be coming along smoothly. Cake ingredients are neatly arranged in the church kitchen for tomorrow’s baking marathon. Sandy is curled up in my bubble chair in the lobby, drawing a sketch of her idea for the cake, which involves airbrushing food coloring directly onto the icing to create a tie-dyed effect. (Have I mentioned how much I love this woman?) Grant is loading all of our excess stuff — unwanted books, old VHS tapes, outdated clothing, duplicate kitchen gadgets, ugly furniture, mismatched dishes, etc., etc., etc. — into the truck to take to a thrift store Albuquerque tomorrow. Joey and Lil Miss are putting the finishing touches on my bouquet.

What am I doing? Sitting in front of the Tumbleweed, sipping cappuccino and listening to the coyotes talk things over on the vacant land behind Hank Freed’s place. I’m too tired to do anything else.

This time two days from now, I’ll be married. That’s sort of weird to think about. “Wife” sounds very grown-up and responsible, doesn’t it? Then again, I suppose “business owner” sounds very grown-up and responsible, too. How quickly things change….

– Sierra

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